Merrickville-Wolford council held a special meeting on Friday, July 10, to discuss putting a new bylaw in place to streamline the process for new development in the Municipality. The bylaw will give the mayor and CAO the ability to execute Professional Services Agreements with potential developers, which will allow the Municipality to take deposit payments in order to recover costs related to reviewing applications made under the Planning Act. “If we don’t do a Professional Services Agreement, [staff] have to attempt to retrieve the funds after the fact, which can be difficult to do,” CAO Doug Robertson said at the meeting.
Without the bylaw, staff would have to come to council every time they have to execute a Professional Services Agreement with a developer and take the necessary deposit payment to cover costs. This poses a significant challenge, as the planning process has a time limit, and for staff to bring these decisions back to council puts the Municipality at risk of not meeting the deadline. The bylaw would make sure that the Municipality is able to complete Professional Services Agreements with developers in a timely fashion, without putting the process at risk. “Our lawyer has recommended we put it in place,” CAO Robertson said.
Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron was the only council member at the table who voted against the bylaw. He said he did not feel comfortable delegating that much power to the mayor and CAO. “As this process unfolds, and with more interest to build in the Village, keeping council’s fingers in decisions keeps the process in a more clear view publicly, and for council,” he said at the meeting.
Mayor Struthers clarified at the meeting that this bylaw does not give the mayor any extra power. “All it is doing is affording the opportunity, if a developer in some way shape or form is going to be doing something, to secure a deposit,” he said. “This decision today has nothing to do with the decision making in any aspect of the planning approval process.”
Even with this clarification, Deputy Mayor Cameron was still adamant that the wording in the bylaw was too broad. Councillor Timothy Molloy also seemed to agree that the bylaw was too broad a brush stroke. The bylaw was passed by council, but it may come back to the table in the future to review wording and specifics.